One of the more contentious issues in a divorce or legal separation proceeding is child custody and visitation. When minor children are involved, emotions run high as the parents struggle for custody and control. When determining with which parent the child will spend more time, a judge has to consider a wide range of factors and circumstances. However, the governing rule is unfortunately very broad and only requires that decisions be made to serve the “best interest" of the child, which differs on a case-by-case basis.
For this reason, child custody and visitation orders can hinge on the whim of a judge and their notion of what they consider the child's “best interest.” As a parent, the last thing you want to do is annoy or put-off such a judge who will determine your custodial fate. Two ways in which parents inadvertently anger a judge is by
- Referring to the child as "my" child, as opposed to "our" child, and
- Talking about custody arrangements in terms of percentages.
Sometimes when a parent tries to argue or explain their case to the judge, they refer to the child as “my” child. It could be entirely accidental or unintentional, but it creates a strong impression on the judge. Family Law judges have been known to interrupt the parent and publicly hammer them in court about how inappropriate it is to speak of the child as if the child only belonged to them. And without fail, the judge will also remind the parent that the child is a product of both them and the other parent. So when talking about the children to the judge (or anyone for that matter), always use “our” as much as you can. This implies that you understand that the child needs to be shared between the parents.
Parents may sometimes talk percentages in a custody battle. A parent may talk about wanting 50% timeshare with the child or some other number. "I want to have the child at least 35% of the time." This will signal to the judge that your main concern is not about the well-being of the child, but about child support. There is nothing more tacky and off-putting than bringing money into a discussion about child custody. Judges have also admonished parents on this point as well. The last thing you want a judge to believe is that child support or money is what's motivating your desire for more custody. Child custody should not be a numbers game, so when discussing custody, talk about proposed visitation schedules, activity plans, living arrangements, and anything else that is not money. You can save the numbers for when you are actually dealing with the issue of child support.
These are two pitfalls that you can easily avoid. Do not potentially undermine your case by being unlikable or annoying to a judge in these ways. You also do not want the embarrassment of having a judge yell at you at a public hearing for your poor choice of words.
If you are facing issues regarding child custody and visitation, or have questions about your rights, please contact our attorneys at Lee Lyu Martell. We are here to help. Give us a call. Our telephone number is (909) 381-0074.